Paddy Finucane

02.05.20 Liveryman Roger Earl

Remembering an inspirational man

Walk down a somewhat nondescript street, Raleigh Road, on the borders of Richmond and Kew, you may pass a block of rather ordinary 1960s’ council flats. There are several in the area but one building looks a little different from the others in that it sports a wreath permanently fixed at head height on its outside wall, and above that a simple plaque. The building is named Finucane Court. The block is built on the site of long demolished small Edwardian houses, one of which in the 1930s, number 16 Raleigh Road, housed the Anglo-Irish Finucane family. Their teenage son, Brendan, would have a glorious but tragically brief life.

Finucane Court, Richmond

Finucane Court, Richmond

Brendan Eamonn Fergus Finucane, known to one and all as Paddy, became one of the RAF’s top aces, earning in the course of his combat history the DSO and three DFCs. He accumulated 34 “kills” and another 7½ shared (specifically 28 destroyed plus 7 probables (one of them shared) and 7½ shared).
He began his flying training in August 1938 just prior to his 18th birthday. Surprisingly, considering his later accomplishments as a fighter pilot, Paddy initially struggled learning to fly and was consistently rated as ‘below average’. But he was a very popular individual with Irish charm shining through from his Anglo-Irish background and his best friend ‘Bluey’ Truscott, another ace, later said that “Paddy was the best bloke I’ve ever met outside Australia!” – praise indeed from a tough Aussie!

Having fought with great distinction in the Battle of Britain in his Spitfire at just 19 years of age, and then on offensive sorties over France (known as “rhubarbs”) he was killed less than two years later on 15th July 1942 at the age of only 21 as a result of ground fire during one such “rhubarb” over France, crashing into the English Channel whilst attempting to get his badly damaged aircraft home. With the height of the Spitfire too low over the water for him to safely bale out, his comrades watched him descending onto the unwelcoming Channel. They also heard his last words when Paddy exclaimed over the radio, “This is it chaps!” His stricken Spitfire appeared to make a textbook ditching on the water, but after only a few seconds both Paddy and the Spitfire sank below the surface and down into the dark cold depths of the English Channel.

By the time of his death he had become the RAF’s youngest ever Wing Commander, commanding the Hornchurch Wing and 602 Squadron based at Hornchurch. A truly great, inspirational, and courageous young man.